Planning a destination wedding

Ever planned a destination wedding from the couch online without an event co-ordinator? Piece of cake…with a glass of wine of course.

With family and friends scattered around the world, we always knew we wanted to elope in a laid back, stress free style…and why not?!

After searching online top destinations to elope (besides all of the beautiful beach side locations) Queenstown, New Zealand stuck out like a sore thumb. As soon as we saw those incredible snow-capped mountains surrounding that stunning turquoise lake, we knew this was the spot for our perfect wedding! Easy, let’s book this in!

First things first, the date was set – 1st October (easy to remember) which left 3 months to organise all the services required. This is where the power of the internet comes in to play organising your own event.

The hotel websites provide plenty of options which lead us to The Rees Hotel – a two bedroom apartment showcasing breathtaking panoramic lake and alpine views. What a find!

A local photographer by the name of Warren Williams with his signature mountain top images moved us in a way which magnetised our interest in the elopement package available. We had to pinch ourselves with the price and the quality we would receive. We were able to book Warren in right away, so with a photographer locked in, we were elated!

Then to find someone to actually marry us, make this thing official! Through a local wedding site with celebrants listed, we found Phillipa Cook. As soon as we started communicating with Phillipa, with her eloquent and professional style, her nurturing nature and passion for her role, we knew we had found our celebrant. She made the process of writing our vows simple. After giving her an idea of our interests and style, she provided a few suggested ceremonies which we were able to amend to our hearts content! We also each found a poem that we loved to read to one another.

We asked Phillipa for advice on wedding ceremony locations, to which she provided a few stunning local spots. The thing was, that they were all public and we really wanted our ceremony to be private.

Through one of Warren’s blogs from a previous wedding, we found a location that was like no other by the name of Thulbury Domain. Beautiful stretches of manicured lawns and native gardens, enveloped by giant blue gums, with 19th century stone ruins scattered throughout along with two beautiful old stone stables, still intact. This had to be where we would hold our ceremony!!

No amount of online searching could get us in touch with the owners though, so Warren tracked down their phone number for us and that very next day at a New Zealand friendly time, we called Vicki from Thulbury Domain. She was rather perplexed at first as to how we got their details, but also very flattered that a couple all the way from the West Coast of Australia, wanted to marry at their beautiful property. A contract was signed and payment made.

We enlisted our Kiwi friends, Janine & Celyn from Wellington who we met travelling in South America 5 years prior to be our witnesses, who were more than happy to help out and make this thing official. Why not take a casual trip down to the stunning Queenstown to hang out with friends you haven’t seen for years, drink beautiful wine, eat incredible food, take a scenic drive, maybe bungie jump…Oh, and attend a wedding.

We stopped into a florist to request a wedding bouquet for around the $80 mark. On the day, Glen walked into the store with our friends where they were handed a bunch of flowers the size of a small car. When the situation was cleared up, they were then presented with a perfect little bunch. No discount or leftover flowers given though of course, as they were for a wedding and apparently we were getting a bargain. Of course we were.

Planning a destination wedding


With transport (hire cars) already organised online via Ace Car Rentals, our friends landed safely, jumped in their car and followed the soon to be bride and groom. Brunch was a picture-perfect way to start the “big day”, but really a small, low key kind of big day. Sara then set off for the ever important hair and make-up at Collective Hair & Make-up where the ladies looked after her. And where did the groom and witnesses go? Back to the hotel room for a nap.

Tick toc. It was time to pour the champagne and scotch, get suited and booted and do up the zip on that stunning Rachel Gilbert dress. Warren then arrived pre wedding to take those awkwardly “act natural” photos which ended up being rather entertaining. The men headed to the ceremony spot leaving the girls to finish that bottle and add those final touches.

The celebrant and men patiently waiting on those manicured lawns, taking in the beauty of the ruins and how the day turned out to be sunny with all those rainy days behind us. A phone rings and everyone reaches for their pockets with slightly concerned looks on their faces. “Hello. What! You can’t get the car started?” Crap, brand new hire car. Would the bride have to make her grand entrance exiting a bright blue cab? “No honey, you have to put your foot on the brake first then turn the key”. OK, we’re back on schedule.

Fashionably late, the ladies arrived. The bride had this hallow like glow which followed her down the grass path, sun shining through the leafy gaps of the giant trees and what used to be windows of the sandstone ruins. A chuffed groom awaited her, grinning with the thought that this couldn’t get any better. It may have been the alcohol or the tranquillity of the gardens which put everyone at ease or perhaps it was the family of ducks who decided to fly past and be part of this moment.

Planning a destination wedding

POP! More champagne. You are now husband and wife – no need to go into mushy ceremony stuff – vowels, poems, rings and PG rated kissing. Let’s take some more act natural photos and by natural, this meant to get Celyn to climb up that tree, shake the branch which will make the white flowers fall over the bride and groom and the photo will look like there were no special effects required.

Instead of the wedding day routine and stresses, the one thing everyone became a part of was taking a moment to appreciate where they were and feel this sense of stillness and happiness. Cheers to that.

Time to get the small cavalry ready for the pimped out James Bond helicopter flight up to the snow-capped mountains by the incredible service of Over the Top Helicopters.

Planning a destination wedding

Sat on a steep cliff at four degrees Celsius with the crisp wind adding to the body tremble, it was a surprise how no photo displays how cold everyone was. It was all worth it for those moments in time which you don’t get to experience often and having that captivating landscape made you want to stay that little bit longer. Where’s a puffy jacket with a furry hood when you need it?

After the adrenaline kick which Queenstown is famous for, it was time to grab a good feed at none other than Botswana Butchery. This venue provided exceptional service and a private room for an intimate reception. The incredible food kept coming and the wide array of beer and wine flowed until that top button had to come loose on the pants – time to roll our way home to the comfy couch by the coveted warm fireplace.

The term “we did it our way” really defines this special event. As bride and groom, we saw this as a day to celebrate our partnership, friendship and unconditional love for one another.

The services provided by venues, transport, florists, photographer, celebrant, hair and make-up which combine to make an event possible: